Looking For A Telescope?

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Take a look through this guide made specifically for first-time telescope buyers. You’ll learn a little bit about how telescopes work and we’ll clear up some misconceptions about these incredible instruments. At the end, we’ll make some recommendations based on our years of experience to help steer you in the right direction.

Where To Buy?

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The first thing you want to do is avoid retail stores! Nothing that you find in a local store in Wisconsin will compete with our picks in terms of capability and quality for a given dollar amount. The simple fact is that telescopes are precision instruments and not consumer electronics. The examples on the left might look scientific but they are not good telescopes.

Magnification Myth Busted!

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Magnification, or “power” is nothing when it comes to telescopes. For one thing, the Earth’s turbulent atmosphere won’t allow more than 300x on an average night. Most of the time amateur astronomers operate between 70-150x, because objects other than the planets are too large to fit into narrow fields of view produced by high power. Finally, by changing eyepieces, any telescope can be made to operate at almost any magnification.

The Most Important Thing

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It is a fundamental law of physics that a telescope with a larger main lens or mirror will show more than a smaller telescope; that is why astronomers are building larger telescopes all the time. Light gathering ability is based on area, so a 6″ telescope will have images four times brighter than a 3″ telescope. Shown at left are graphical comparisons from 2.4″ to 10″ of aperture, which are common sizes for amateur telescopes.

Do It With Mirrors

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The simple reflecting telescope offers more “bang for the buck” than any other optical telescope design. Remember that aperture is important, and it’s much easier to make a large mirror than a large lens. Furthermore, because light doesn’t have to pass through the mirror, the glass doesn’t have to be perfectly clear.

Why We Love Dobsonians

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Reflecting optics make brighter, more detailed images. But having a great optical tube is useless unless it’s on a sturdy mounting. In the 1970s, John Dobson came up with the idea to take a classic reflecting telescope tube and mount it on a simple wooden swivel, like a cannon. The result was a very stable, easy to use and inexpensive telescope that sparked a revolution in home-built and commercial telescopes alike.

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